by Paisley Kirkpatrick
We spent a couple of hours exploring both the gardens and the interior of Cawdor Castle, set in the parish of Cawdor, ten miles east of Inverness, Scotland. The fourteenth century tower house belonged to Clan Calder and continues to serve as the home of the Cawdor family.
On the way into the parking lot, we had to stop to save the little hedgehog. I'd never seen one before and thought it was cute. A huge tour bus readied to leave the parking lot at the same time as we wanted to enter. I was afraid the little guy might be squished. I jumped out of our car, held up my hands to stop the bus and dashed to the little critter's aid. I earned a wide smile from the bus driver and a few thumbs up from his passengers.
For many years it was thought the castle was built around the year 1454. The belief now is that it was built as early as the mid-1300s. An older, crumbling Cawdor Castle needed replacing, and William, 3rd Thane of Cawdor, set out in search of a replacement location to re-construct Cawdor. The story is that William rode his donkey through the nearby countryside. Cawdor was built in the exact spot where the donkey laid its head in rest. Cawdor was constructed around a holly tree that stood where the donkey stopped. Results of testing determined the holly tree died in 1372, suggesting the castle was first built before that date. Ironically, it might have been starvation of sunlight due to the construction of Cawdor around the castle which eventually killed the holly tree. I vaguely remember there is a tribute to the tree in one of the circular rooms. It's been five years so that memory is fleeting.
This original structure would have just been a large four-story tower, or keep. The castle was expanded several times throughout history, mainly in the 17th and 19th centuries. The gardens at Cawdor Castle include a walled garden, originally built in the 17th century, a flower garden, built in the 18th century and a wild garden, built in the 1960s.
Tourists have a chance to walk through the living area of the castle. It appeared to still be lived in and felt quite cozy. Next to Eilean Donan this was my favorite castle to spend time exploring.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dusty bearded men in miner's boots and faded shirts, gamblers in fancy vests and frock coats, a ghost or two tossed in for good measure -- these are the characters who come to life on my pages. Mix them with strong, independent women of the Gold Rush era who delight and tempt their heroes to take a chance on love and, voila, it's romance.
My husband of 43 years and I are fortunate enough to live in the Sierra Mountain Range of California where this colorful time in history took place. Exploring gold mines, inspecting the stately historic homes, and traveling through tunnels zigzagging underground stirs my imagination and brings reality to my stories.
Visit Paisley at www.paisleykirkpatrick.com/